Everything you need to know about Gluten
When was the last time you ate gluten? If you're like most Americans, the answer is probably within the last few hours. A protein found in grain products like rye, barley, and wheat that facilitates the rising process in dough, gluten is an ingredient used in thousands of products ranging from crackers to bread.
While most people have no problems digesting gluten on a daily basis, this isn't true for everyone. Individuals who are gluten intolerant, a condition most commonly associated with celiac disease, experience an allergic reaction when gluten is consumed, leading to symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, gas, and diarrhea. When gluten is ingested, the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed, negatively impacting the body's natural ability to absorb nutrients. After confirming a diagnosis of celiac disease with a blood test or intestinal biopsy, it is important to begin a gluten-free lifestyle immediately.
Individuals who suffer from digestive symptoms but who do not test positive for celiac disease may be gluten sensitive instead. Unlike celiac disease, there is no intestinal damage when gluten is consumed but sufferers may experience gastrointestinal issues, headaches, and fatigue. Those who experience severe symptoms, even despite testing negative for celiac disease, may choose to reduce gluten intake or switch to a gluten-free diet.
Between celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and individuals who choose to cut out gluten for personal health reasons, gluten-free diets are becoming more and more common. Many alternatives and gluten-free options exist that mimic common products high in gluten, like bread, cereal, and pasta, making it easier than ever to live gluten-free. Ingredients like potato flour, almond flour, and quinoa are becoming increasingly popular, allowing for everything from gluten-free donuts to gourmet gluten-free pizza. Many chain and high-end restaurants even offer gluten-free menus or highlight dishes that can be made without gluten.
Living with gluten intolerance isn't always easy and requires absolute adherence to a strict diet, but saying goodbye to gluten isn't the sacrifice it used to be. With thousands of options to supplement your diet that taste great and are good for you, celiac sufferers and gluten sensitive individuals alike are able to live a normal, healthy life.